We have made it to the 13th and the final week of our series called This Is How We Roll. And it’s been one of the most important series in the history of our church. It’s been a series of change. We are making some foundational, fundamental changes to how we do church here at Connect. It’s been a series of challenge and growth. But most of all, it’s been a series of listening.
For 13 weeks, we’ve been asking the question, “Who are we as Christ-followers? Who are we as a church? What do we do as people and as a church that follows Jesus? How do we roll?”
Those are the questions we’ve been asking. And God has been answering. And it’s all been building toward today. Today is going to be a historic day at Connect. Today is going to be a day that is going to have a huge impact on the rest of our days.
If you’re just checking things out at Connect, maybe it’s even your first time with us, we are so glad you’re here! I just want to tell you upfront that this is going to be a different kind of day. This is a day that the people of our church have been building to for the last 3 months. It should give you a glimpse of what we’re all about, but I just wanted you to know that it is a different kind of day.
Now, before we go any further, let’s push the pause button and let’s ask God to speak and to lead us today.
I like to play poker. I’ve never played for money. For one reason, I can think of a lot of better uses for my money. And the other reason is, I’m not very good.
And that’s especially evident when I play with Brian Morrissey. Somehow, Brian has learned my tell. If you’re not into poker, that means that I do something that gives away my hand. Some mannerism, some look, some expression gives my hand away.
But what ticks me off the most is that Brian will not tell me what my tell is. He just smiles and says, “I know your tell.” And judging by the amount of times that he’s beaten me, I believe him.
So I just decided that it’s better for my ego and it’s better for Brian’s employment status if we just don’t play poker anymore!
If you have even a small working knowledge of poker, you know that every player is always given a choice. To fold or to stay. To go out or stay in.
But the most exciting play in poker is the decision to go “all in.” Not only do you not fold, not only do you stay in, you go ALL in. You push all your chips to the middle of the table. You bet everything you have. There is no safety net. There is no turning back. You bet everything you’ve got on this hand.
That’s what’s happening today. We have a choice in front of us today as a church. And today, we are pushing all our chips to the middle of the table. We’re not just in. We are ALL IN!
But this is nothing new. This is a decision that Christ-followers have always faced.
In John 6, Jesus’ disciples faced an all in decision, because people were leaving Jesus right and left. We like to think of Jesus as this super nice guy who never offended anybody. He was gentle and meek and mild. He liked to hold little lambs on his lap. He always made people feel good about themselves. And He and all His followers just sat around campfires, roasting marshmallows, drinking decaf, and singing Kumbaya.
That’s a pretty far cry from the truth. The trust is that Jesus was incredibly divisive. Jesus was highly offensive. And countless people walked away from him because of that.
That’s what was happening in John 6. Starting in verse 66, John writes, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.” (John 6:66-67, NIV)
Jesus had taught some hard, offensive things, and then He watched as His followers left Him in droves. Not a few. Not just a handful. John said that “MANY of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
There was a mass exodus AWAY from Jesus. So Jesus turned to the Twelve. These twelve disciples were His closest followers. They were His core group. They were His inner circle.
And He looked at this group and said, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
It wasn’t, “You’d better not leave!” Or, “There will be serious consequences if you leave!”
Jesus didn’t word it as a threat or an ultimatum. He worded it as a question. Are you leaving? Do you want to leave, too?
And that illustrates a very clear truth about Jesus. Jesus will never force Himself on us. Following Jesus is ALWAYS a choice. We are not preprogrammed robots. We are freewill beings. And Jesus loves us enough to give us a choice. We can choose to accept Him, or we can choose to reject Him. We can choose to walk with Him, or we can choose to walk away from Him. But it’s always our choice.
But now, let’s look at the choice that the original disciples made. People were leaving Jesus right and left, so Jesus looked at the Twelve and said, “You do not want to leave too, you do?”
Next verse. “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69, NIV)
Jesus gave them the choice. They were free to walk away. They had the choice to reject Jesus. They could have said, “We fold. We’re out.”
But instead, they said the exact opposite. They said, “We’re all in!”
Look at what Peter said to Jesus. Jesus said, “Do you want to leave?”
Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
Where else are we going to go, Jesus? No one else has the words of eternal life, so where could we possibly go?
And then, Peter said this. This is so crucial. He said, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter said, “We’re betting on You, Jesus. We believe and know that you are who you claim to be. We’re all in on You.”
Now, remember that most people were walking away from Jesus at this time. Most of Peter’s friends had probably decided to stop following Jesus. There would be incredible pressure for him to reject Jesus, as well.
But when everyone else around them decided to fold, Peter and the other disciples went all in. They went all in on Jesus. They went all in on who He was. They went all in on what He could do. They knew this choice could cost them, but they also knew there was nowhere else for them to go. There was no one else like Jesus, so that’s where they put their chips. That’s why they went all in.
Over the last 13 weeks, we’ve been exploring who we are as followers of Jesus. Who has Jesus called us to be? What has Jesus called us to do?
And some of the answers have been tough. Some the answers have created some tension. Some of the answers have been uncomfortable.
But here’s where we land as a church. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Where else are we going to go? Who else are we going to trust?
Here at Connect, it’s all about Jesus. That is the first core value of our church. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we are is all about Jesus. And we’re not going to walk away from that. We’re not going to fold. Instead, we’re going all in.
That’s who we are as a church. That’s how we roll. We’re all in.
But we’re also not presumptuous enough to just assume that you’re with us. If Jesus didn’t automatically assume people were with Him, we certainly won’t do that as His church. So today, you have a choice.
Throughout this series, we’ve been talking about a huge change in our church. We are doing away with church membership and embracing the more biblical idea of church partnership. But it’s not just a change in words. It’s not just semantics. It’s a huge, fundamental change for our church. And it’s a change that begins today.
Today, you will get to choose if you want to partner with Connect. You get to choose if you are all in with our church. We’re not assuming anything. Instead, we all have a completely free choice.
But before we all choose, let’s just do a quick review of what we’ve been talking about over the last few months. Why are we doing away with membership and embracing partnership?
Because members have rights, but partners have responsibilities.
There is a disease in the church today…especially in the American church. It’s a disease of consumerism. It’s a disease of entitlement. It’s a disease that asks, “What’s in it for me?”
That’s the membership mentality. It’s about my rights. My perks. My privileges. That’s how members think.
But partners flip that upside down. Instead of, “What can I get?” partners ask, “What can I give?” Instead of “serve us,” partners think, “service.” It’s a completely new perspective. It’s a completely different approach to the church.
And it’s the approach that we are embracing here at Connect. Today, you will get to decide if you want to reject the rights of membership and embrace the responsibilities of partnership.
Throughout this series, we’ve talked about what that means. What to do partners do? Let me remind you what we’ve seen in the last 3 months.
First and foremost, partners know it’s all about Jesus. Partners have surrendered to Jesus. Nothing else matters if we miss this. Partners have made Jesus the Savior and Lord of their life. They live lives of repentance, asking God to forgive their sin and to help them live more holy lives. And they have publicly declared their faith in Jesus through baptism.
Here at Connect, we practice baptism by immersion in water. And the reason is very simple…because that’s what baptism meant in the New Testament.
If you read the book of Acts in the New Testament, you will see that when the church began, every time someone came to faith in Jesus, they were baptized by immersion in water. There is not a single exception. Not one. All the other modes of baptism…christening, sprinkling, pouring, etc…didn’t come along until much later.
Now, we’re not casting judgment against anyone who has been baptized in a different way. We’re not saying that they’re not Christians, that they aren’t following Jesus, or anything like that. All we’re saying is that this is how the church operated in the New Testament, and we want to stick as closely to that as possible.
That’s why we require partners to be baptized by immersion. Not so they can be baptized into our church. No one is baptized into a local church. People are baptized into Christ.
The reason we require immersion is simply because that’s what we see in Scripture. That’s how Jesus was baptized. That’s how everyone in the early church was baptized.
So it really comes down to this question…why WOULDN’T you want to do that? Why wouldn’t you want to follow Scripture as closely as possible? Why wouldn’t you want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?
That’s where we start as partners. We start with Jesus. Partners believe that they are not saved by anything they have done or could ever do. They are saved because of what Jesus has done FOR them. For partners, it’s all about Jesus.
And because of what Jesus has done for us, we want to follow Him and obey Him. Not so we can earn His grace, but because we’ve already received His grace.
That’s why partners serve. The expectation of partners is that they are willing to serve selflessly. They realize that our church exists for people who don’t know Jesus yet. They understand that, and they want to serve to support that mission.
We have seven different volunteer teams here at Connect. Everything from setup to security to kids to care, and a lot of others. Partners serve on one or two of these teams. Partners don’t even ask the question, “Should I serve?” Partners ask, “Where can I serve?”
The lifeblood of our church here at Connect is our servants. It’s not me. Please, please, please understand that. It’s not me. The lifeblood of our church is our servants. If our staff was gone tomorrow, Connect would continue on. If our volunteers were gone tomorrow, Connect ceases to exist immediately.
Partners understand that. Partners embrace that.
Which is why partners also live lives of generosity.
Partners know that everything they have and everything they are is a gift from God, so partners are givers. Not because they think they can bribe God. Not because they think they can somehow pay God back. Partners are generous givers simply out of gratitude.
Partners embrace giving, not as a duty, but as a joy. Partners know the biblical promise that God honors generosity. God rewards generosity. They believe that God’s blessings will be more fully realized in their lives if they are generous.
And it’s been awesome to see more and more people at Connect embracing this truth. Our generosity has grown over the last 3 months, which means that our church’s impact has grown. And if you are giving generously to our church, if you are bringing a tithe, I want you to hear this loud and clear: THANK YOU! Thank you for trusting God’s promises. Thank you for loving our church. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Now, others of us haven’t arrived at the tithe yet. A tithe simply means returning 10% of your income back to God. Some of us aren’t there yet. It’s not realistic to go from 2% to 10% overnight. It’s a process, but it’s a process a lot of us are taking on. We’re praying for God to help us make changes and sacrifices so we can give more. And again, it’s all done out of gratitude. Gratitude for what God has given us. Gratitude for what He is doing in our church and through our church.
That’s who we are as partners. Partners are generous givers.
And partners are found people who find people.
We talked about that last week. Partners understand that they were lost, but because of what Jesus did for them through His death and resurrection, they are found. That’s who we are in the church. We are found people.
And partners celebrate that truth. They know that here at Connect, we exist for the outsider, not the insider. We exist to connect people to Jesus Christ.
Those aren’t just words. That’s a mission that we take incredibly seriously. In fact, we just had a couple more people respond to Jesus through our ministry at Connect. Check this out.
That never gets old. It just never gets old. Here at Connect, we never get tired of seeing people give their lives to Jesus. It’s why we’re here. And it’s what our partners live for! We are found people who find people.
That’s a quick review of what we’ve been exploring for the last 13 weeks. That is a quick reminder of where God is calling us to go and who He is calling us to be. This is who we are as partners here at Connects.
So now comes the question…are you in? Are you ready to partner with Connect in our vision and our mission?
We have a brand new vision here at Connect. We have a vision of partnership.
We have a vision of 150 in 15. We have a vision for 150 new people to walk through our doors in 2015. And we have a vision of taking our average weekly attendance to 200 and beyond next year.
We have a new vision for community. In February of next year, we are launching a brand new system of small groups. These Connect Groups will create and deepen relationships. They will foster a whole new level of community that we’ve never seen in our church before.
We have a vision to relocate. We know that God is calling our church to take the next step in our journey of being found people who find people, and that includes a new location for our Sunday gatherings. We don’t know where it is yet, but the search is on. And when God reveals it to us, we will jump.
We have a vision to serve our community in new and powerful ways through Sports Camp. Through our partnership with the Christian Help Center. And on and on and on. We want to be a church that, if we ceased to exist tomorrow, our community would know we were gone. They would miss us because of the hole that would be left in the fabric of the community. That’s who want to be. That’s the vision that God has given us.
And so I’ve got a question, right here, right now church…are you in? Are you ALL in?
There’s a card and a pen under every seat in this room. Reach under your seat and grab that card now.
Part of the card is just general information. But the part I want you to look at is the stuff in the boxes. The box on the right reminds us what partnership means. “As a partner, I commit to give generously, serve selflessly, share my story, invite others to church, and pray for my church.”
That’s a summary of what partnership means.
And then there’s the box to the left. And in that box, there are three choices you can check.
The first box simply declares that you’re in. You are ready to partner with Connect and our vision and mission.
The second box says that you want to partner with us, but you need to talk to someone because you’ve never given your life to Christ yet. Or maybe you have never been immersed in baptism. We’d love to talk with you about it, so check that box and we’ll get with you.
The third box is for someone who is interested, but they still have some questions. We understand that, even in a 13 week series, we can’t answer every question. If you need some more information, check that box and we’ll get back with you.
In just a minute, you’re going to have a chance to make your choice. And if you have an older elementary child who fits the criteria for partnership, you can take a card home and talk with and pray with your child about it. And if they’re ready for this commitment, they can fill out a card and you can return it next Sunday. Extra cards are out at the Connect Center.
Again, if you’re here checking out Connect, we’re so glad you’re here. And we fully understand that this might seem a little strange or odd to you. It would be completely crazy to expect anything from you on this. You haven’t even gotten to know us yet. But I hope today has started to give you a glimpse of what we’re all about. And if you are checking us out for the first time today, please stop by the Connect Center after church. We’ve got a little gift for you, just to thank you for joining us today.
But these commitment cards are for those of us who call Connect our home. For us, today is decision day. It’s a day to decide if we want to stay on the fringe, or if we want to dive in. Do you want to fold? Do you want to stand pat? Or do you want to go all in?
As of this moment, membership here at Connect doesn’t exist anymore. We’re shredding the whole concept of membership. Membership, with its rights and perks and privileges, is no more.
Right now, at this moment, we are a church of zero. I’m not a member. You’re not a member. The person sitting next to you is not a member. We’re all out.
In fact, let’s just all own that truth. Everybody say, “I’m out!” on the count of three. 1, 2, 3. I’m out!
Welcome to the church of nobody. No members. None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. We have no members. We’re all out.
But today is also the day when you get to decide if you’re in. If you’re all in.
Today is the day when we repeat the words of Peter. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69, NIV)
Jesus, we have nowhere else to go. We are all in on You. As Your church, we’re betting all our chips on You. This is where You have led us. This is the vision You have given us. This is the mission You have entrusted to us. And we’re in! We’re all in!
Before we start making decisions and signing cards, I just want to get very personal and very real with you. I want to tell you that I could not be more proud of our leaders who have prayed and sought God and worked hard to bring us to this point. And I could not be honored to be your pastor. I am so humbled, so honored, so grateful that you have entrusted me to pastor our church.
And as your pastor, I want you to hear me say this loud and clear. I’m in! I’m ALL in!
I believe wholeheartedly that this next chapter in our church is going to be the best yet. And I want you to know that I’m not backing down. I’m stepping up, because I believe the best really is yet to come. I’m all in!
So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to pray, and then our band is going to lead a song. It’s a song about commitment. It’s a song about following Jesus wherever He leads. It’s a song about being all in.
During the song, we’re asking you to make your choice. Don’t get up. Just stay in your seats during this song. Take a minute and pray for God to lead you. And if you’re all in with Connect…if you’re all in with our vision and our mission…grab that pen and fill the card out. (And by the way, you get to keep the pen as a bonus!)
And then after that song, Brian will explain what we’re going to do to finalize our partnership commitments.
But before we do any of that, let’s pray.
It’s time to decide. I’m all in! Take this time to pray and make your decision, as well. Are you all in? Grab that pen and fill our your card. This is your opportunity. This is your moment.
What a day, huh? What a day.
Before we close, I just want you to know that we’re always here for you. If you ever need someone to pray with you, or if you need to talk to somebody about a decision that you need to make for Christ, we always have people in our Green Room after every service. You can go in confidentially and they would love to talk and to pray with you.
I want to close out this series with this. There’s a story in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. A leader from the nation Israel named Jonathan was considering an attack on their enemies, the Philistines.
Here’s how the story unfolded in 1 Samuel 14. “Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6, NIV)
This seemed crazy. It was audacious. It was a huge risk. But Jonathan was convinced that God could work through them in this mission.
Now, check out what his young armor-bearer said in response to this crazy mission.
“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” (1 Samuel 14:7, NIV)
Yes, it was risky. Yes, it was audacious. No, it didn’t all make sense. But the armor-bearer believed in where God was leading Jonathan, so he said, “Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”
And today, that’s exactly what every one of our new partners have said. We believe in where God is leading our church. It’s audacious. It’s risky. It won’t always make sense. But we see God’s hand all over this, so we are in!
And we are telling God, “God, do all that you have in mind! Accomplish your will in our church and through our church. Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead, God. We are with you heart and soul.”
That’s what it means to be all in. It means telling God, “Do all that you have in mind, and we’ll follow. Go ahead! We’re with you heart and soul.”
That’s who we are! That’s what we do! That’s how we roll!
So let’s close out today and let’s close out this entire series by blowing this place up with worship. Let’s worship a God who is leading us on to the next level. Who has bigger plans and dreams for our lives and our families and our church than we do. Who loves us even in the midst of our shortcomings and struggles and sins. Who gave his life for us just so He could be with us. That’s the God that we have. That’s the God that we’re going to worship right now.